THE role of women in agriculture in Scotland is about to undergo some forensic examination by a taskforce appointed by Rural Ecomony Secretary Fergus Ewing.
NFU Scotland will be involved, but rather than wait for criticism of it being very male dominated, the organisation has taken the initiative.
NFUS policy manager Gemma Cooper said: "There is some feeling that the union must be more inclusive, however there are also those who caution against encouraging positive discrimination. The question remains as to where that line should ultimately be drawn.”
The board of directors at NFUS is entirely male but a recent survey showed that within the staff 60 per cent were female with a further 25 women currently engaged in roles within regions, six of whom were chairing their local branch.
“This aside, there is a recognition within NFUS that these women are the exceptions and not the rule, and we recognise that an evolution is needed," said Ms Cooper.
The survey showed the largest barrier to women engaging with NFU Scotland was a perception of male dominance.
Some 89 per cent of respondents said the best way to encourage greater engagement of women members was for NFU Scotland to have dedicated ’women in agriculture’ events and three pilots have been set up for the coming months, one specifically to look at the dairy sector.
In addition to this, NFUS will actively look for women to become regional mentors, offering guidance and assistance.
However, not all organisations in Scottish agriculture are so male dominated.
Quailty Meat Scotland has four female board members out of a total compliment of 13.
The organisation has seven male members of staff and 16 female members.
Until recently, the National Sheep Association Scotland chairman was Argyllshire sheep farmer Sybil MacPherson.
Long term NSA Scotland treasurer Mamie Paterson said: “I do not really see the need for this workforce. Women have the same chances to get going in farming as men and the challenges they face are just the same.
"As regards organisations, gender does not really matter as long as the best person for the job is appointed.
"In fact striving for gender balance might just work against the industry.”